A number of “social networking” websites (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter just to name a few) have demonstrated how there’s a great demand for online communities where people can connect and interact with others. But the fact that so many people have already joined existing websites doesn’t mean that there’s not room for more. In fact, many individuals are looking for places that are focused on specific interests. So while someone might still want to continue using Facebook, they might also be interested in joining a community website centered around a smaller community, perhaps something like being an online web professional, knitting, weight loss, humanitarian efforts, or distance running.
Build A Community Website with WordPress
Local businesses, organizations, clubs and churches could also benefit from having a community website. Such a website would allow their members to interact more directly with other members, in an environment that is free from unrelated distractions (as many people find Facebook to have). As Dan Kennedy would put it, you build a fence around your customers or members. Fortunately, WordPress and a plugin called BuddyPress can be used to build a community website.
Planning Your Community Site
It’s a good idea to have at least a preliminary vision for how you want your new social network to function. While the core feature of any social network is the ability to create a member profile, you can also allow your members to create subgroups within the community, send messages to other individuals using the community infrastructure, view strains of the activities of other members and even set up individual blogs on your community website.
Before you even contact a developer to setup your online community you should be able to answer the following:
- What types of functions and features do you want to provide to new members?
- How will you maintain your community or will you outsource the maintenance?
- How will you deal with member privacy?
- How will you combat SPAM?
Yes! Communities have to fight SPAM, even more than Blogs.
The first step, or course, is to download and install the BuddyPress plug-in into a WordPress website. The process for doing so is the same as with any other WordPress plugin. Once BuddyPress is activated, you’ll be able to begin the “installation process.”
The first step of the configuration process will allow you to select which BuddyPress components you want to have on your site. Next you’ll select whether you want BuddyPress to create the various types of pages (member pages, grouped pages, forum pages and registration pages, for example), or whether you want to use existing pages on your current site.
Choosing a Theme
It’s important to note that because BuddyPress changes the structure of a basic WordPress site, your current WordPress theme probably won’t be completely compatible with BuddyPress automatically. If you have a good working knowledge of CSS and HTML then the BuddyPress installation wizard can provide assistance for you to manually update your current theme. Fortunately, if you don’t want to do this, there are BuddyPress-specific themes that are currently available. You can also have a custom Buddypress theme created to meet the needs of your community.
When building a community website with BuddyPress, it’s always important to step back from your role as site creator, and put yourself in the role of a new user. What features would you want, and what would make the site most appealing to you?